China is scrambling to ease power shortages and bring more water to the drought-hit Yangtze River Basin as it battles a record heat wave by seeding clouds, deploying funds relief and developing new sources of supply.
For more than two months, baking temperatures have disrupted crop growth, threatened livestock and forced industries in hydro-dependent regions of the southwest to shut down to ensure electricity supplies to homes.
China has repeatedly warned that it will face a proliferation of extreme weather events in the coming years as it tries to adapt to climate change and rising temperatures that are likely to be more severe than somewhere else.
The current extreme heat is likely to come from a “special case” of Western Pacific high pressure stretching across much of Asia, said Cai Wenju, a researcher at Australia’s National Institute for Scientific Research, the CSIRO.
China’s heatwave lasted 64 days, making it the longest since full records began in 1961, state media said, citing data from the national climate center. High temperatures will persist through Aug. 26 in the Sichuan Basin and large parts of central China, according to forecasts.
On Wednesday, China’s southwest Sichuan province said it would ration power to homes, offices and shopping malls, after previously ordering high-powered metal and fertilizer producers energy intensity to limit their operations.
In what appears to be an official call to reduce electricity consumption, government offices have been told to set air conditioners to at least 26C (79F) and use stairs instead of lifts, said the Sichuan Daily.
Fountains, light shows and commercial activities after dark should be suspended, he added.
On Wednesday, the central province of Hubei became the latest to unveil an effort to induce rainfall, by sending planes to shoot the chemical silver iodide into clouds.
Other areas of the Yangtze also started “cloud seeding” programs, but with too thin cloud cover, operations in some parched areas remained on hold.
Power shortages have also prompted several companies in the vast Chongqing region bordering Sichuan to say they will suspend production.
Chinese Vice Premier Han Zheng visited the state-owned grid company on Wednesday and said more efforts were needed to ensure electricity supplies to residents and key industries, and to prevent outages. current, according to a state media report.
China should speed up projects to improve electric load management and promote the joint operation of coal power and renewable energy, Han said.
Hydroelectricity accounts for around 80% of Sichuan’s electric capacity, but dwindling water flows on the Yangtze and its tributaries led to a struggle to meet growing demand for air conditioning as temperatures soared to 40C. and beyond.
Average rainfall in Sichuan is 51 percent lower than in previous years, according to state news agency Xinhua, which cited the provincial branch of the state network.
Some reservoirs have dried up, after water in major rivers was cut in half, he said.
Drought across the Yangtze River basin has also “adversely affected” drinking water for rural people and livestock, as well as crop growth, the water resources ministry said in a notice.
He urged drought-affected regions to develop plans to maintain water supply with measures such as temporary transfer of water, development of new sources and extension of pipe networks.
To boost downstream supply, China’s largest hydropower project, the Three Gorges Dam, will increase water flows by 500 million cubic meters over the next 10 days, it said on Tuesday. Water flows there this week were about half those of a year earlier.
Some livestock from drought-hit areas have been temporarily moved elsewhere, the finance ministry said this week, pledging 300 million yuan ($44 million) in disaster relief.